The sad thing about artificial intelligence is that it lacks artifice and therefore intelligence.

Jean Baudrillard – French Sociologist and Philosopher

When vendors created automated court rules integrated into their software, litigation docketing professionals panicked. Job security was threatened and most resisted subscribing to such technology. Back then, deadlines were determined by opening a rule book, checking the supplement for amendments, and calculating the number of days promulgated by the rule(s). Lawyers relied upon their docketing staff to assist with rules calculations and still do.

Today, automated court rules are a common feature among docketing software. Docketing software must have the ability to automatically calculate deadlines based upon a trigger date if the vendor wants to survive. Professional liability insurance companies may even require it.

If you really think about it, automated deadline calculations in docketing software is a form of artificial intelligence (AI). So was your job replaced? Probably not. Instead, such automation complemented your work and made the calculations easier and more accurate. The same thing happened with electronic case filing (ECF). Many court runners thought their days were numbered. There would be no need for them to run to court with a paper filing. But what occurred was a natural human instinct to survive – the same court runners became proficient with ECF and saved the attorneys a lot of work and time.

However, AI is getting smarter and widely accepted as a cost cutting measure. It’s not a robot sitting at a desk, as you may think of it, but rather intelligent software that can do the job cheaper, better, and faster.

There have been many articles about how AI is becoming more prevalent in law firms.  In the world of e-Discovery, computers are capable of processing data to find patterns, perform tests, and evaluate data to produce a set of results for the lawyers. The result is faster information at a much lower cost to the client and the firm. Is that replacing humans? Maybe.

Will Docketing Jobs Be Replaced by Artificial Intelligence?

The answer is possibly, depending on your job and what you actually do. If your job requires routine and repetitive tasks, you may be replaced some day. If you are a valuable resource to the attorneys, and they rely upon you for procedural and rules based advice, your job is probably secure. According to an Oxford University study in 2013, around 50% of all jobs will be replaced by robots in the next 20 years. The most likely loss will occur with legal secretaries. The probability of losing their jobs is 98%. Trailing them are paralegals and legal assistants at 94%. Legal associate professionals, those that perform support functions at a law firm, have a 66% chance of losing their jobs. That group may include docketing professionals.

What Can You Do?

Definitely do not resist the change. Resisting will reflect poorly on you and probably cause your employer to doubt your capabilities. Although there may not be much you can do, there are some things you should try.

  • Work closely with your docketing software vendor
    Be proactive with your vendor in developing features that will continue to safeguard the firm and make your job more important. Automations are unavoidable so make them work for you.
  • Own the software and the processes
    Make sure your manager, attorneys, and staff know you are responsible for the software and the workflow. Make them aware that you are helping to develop the software with the vendor to meet the firm’s future needs.
  • Make yourself very valuable
    Become the expert and not the data inputter. The latter will definitely be replaced.
  • Keep informed on other automations being developed in the firm
    If the conflicts system is getting overhauled with new software, find out what features will be available that differ from the former solution. Perhaps the new features can help you with your workflow.
  • Educate and re-educate
    Keep updated on what is occurring in the legal profession and technology. Educate yourself with the many resources available to you that will keep you informed. Monitor the legal and ethical issues with AI and how the courts are solving these problems.

So, should we be panicking? Not necessarily. Artificial intelligence can be a friend and not an enemy. Make it work for you.